Employers have a legal duty to reduce the risks of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
The RCN UK Safety Representatives Committee has debated some of the risk factors with experts from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) because this is an issue that is especially relevant for nursing staff.
Debbie Hammill, Yorkshire and the Humber representative on the committee, says members are very good when it comes to caring for their clients, but not as good at looking after themselves.
She works in a large community trust and has concerns regarding the pressures nursing staff are experiencing every day.
Together with the health and safety manager, she’s now addressing the issue, often raised as a result of injuries at work.
We don't like to make a fuss, we struggle with looking after ourselves
She says: “Nursing staff aren’t always able to access equipment that is, or should be, available to them. They’re so busy working with lengthy client lists and are often expected to carry a large amount of necessary things with them.
“We don't like to make a fuss, we struggle with looking after ourselves – with no break times, no time for food or drink - this is something the RCN’s 3Rs campaign is addressing.”
She adds: “There’s a big focus on the pressures on nursing staff working in the hospital trusts, but the pressures on those working in the community mustn’t be forgotten or ignored if we’re to avoid the long-term consequences.”
The pressures on those working in the community mustn't be forgotten or ignored
Now the committee is promoting the HSE’s Go Home Healthy campaign, which aims to tackle the high levels of MSDs across all sectors, but especially in health care.
Safety reps can help ensure employers are aware of their obligations to protect staff
With nine million working days lost each year due to MSDs, the campaign website encourages employers to protect their employees and offers advice and useful resources to help.
“By sharing information about this campaign, safety reps can help ensure employers are aware of their obligations to protect staff,” says Debbie.
RCN member Linda Harris features in the Go Home Healthy campaign.
Working in a leg ulcer clinic, Linda found she had to spend long periods of time kneeling on the floor, and would have to maintain a flexed and twisted body posture while cleaning or dressing patients’ legs.
She and the nursing team developed a prototype for a height-adjustable trolley and footbath.
Their Harris Trolley is now in production and allows leg ulcers to be bathed and dressed at a height that is suitable for the patient and the nurse.
Nurses can practise more comfortably and reduce the risk of sustaining injuries
“This invention shows the value of empowering frontline nurses in how patient care is designed as well as delivered.
“In this case, the result is a win-win because patients have a good care experience and nurses can practise more comfortably and reduce the risk of sustaining injuries,” said Sheila Marriott, RCN Regional Director, East Midlands.
Video from the Health and Safety Executive's Go Home Healthy campaign
Words by Sharon Palfrey. Picture (right) provided by Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust